Photography Safari Holidays
When it comes to spending your hard earned cash and vacation time, everybody has a different ideas about how they would like to spend it and what they would like to do during their holidays. Most of us enjoy going to the beaches and enjoying the sunshine by the pool or see places of historic importance during a city breaks.
However, some of us like to do something active during our holidays like biking , hiking, walking or even going close to nature and taking photographs. For those who enjoy proximity to nature and want to see the rare animals left in the wild (not in the zoo!) , there are specialist agencies or tour operators who organise photography safari holidays. These holidays are very similar to your normal holidays, however they are special in the sense that they take you to the places you want to visit and photography. Usually a friendly professional photographer leads the tour and helps with creating better images than what you take today.
It is a real opportunity to ask those question about wildlife photography your friends or online forums could not answer. The tour leader also provides one to one time during the safaris with your work and provides professional insight takes your images and skills to the next level. There is a real opportunity to expand your circle by mingling with like-minded photographers and make new connections, if you wish. Where to go for photography safari holidays is a complex question.
How to choose right photography safari holidays ( FOR YOU!)
There are plenty of tour operator & photographer leaders in the market. You need to consider few parameters listed below in order to choose your ideal wildlife photographic safaris.
Safari Destination : If you have a national park or particular animal/bird in mind , you can follow that route. Its pretty obvious that if you wish to photograph Lions, you would go to Africa, rather than China, however Africa is a continent and its huge. You would want to narrow it down to the countries where there are plenty of wild lions and its relatively safe to visit. Geo-Political conditions needs to be in your favour in that country and region. Even in a particular country, there would be different national parks which will have own strengths and weaknesses. You would need to do your research.
Past Reviews of the safari / photography leader(s) : It is important to know what others have said about the photography safari when they went on one. However these reviews may not be 100% true. Some of them are not impartial and sometimes the genuine reviewer only leaves a review when things did not go their way. We have been told by trusted sources, that they went on a wildlife photographic safari with an award winning photographer (who happens to be recipient of the Wildlife Photographer of The Year grand title, TWICE) and sadly they can’t say they learnt something new from the mentor. Other 11 participants had the same experience. There were tall claims on the website about teaching Adobe Lightroom and post processing etc. Nothing of that happened as the photography leader was usually busy doing his own photographic work.
Cost of photo safaris : Cost of safari can be a major factor in choosing the right one. Exotic destinations with rare animals can cost more than the locations near home. Arranging 5 star gourmet meal & unlimited supply of beers/ wines in the middle of the Savannah will surely cost more. Travelling to Masai Mara from Nairobi by a small charter plane is convenient (as compared to 6 hrs road trip) but convenience comes at a cost. Well known photography tour leader can charge a premium, resulting in increased fees for the photographic safaris.
Accommodation : Do take a closer look at the quality of accommodation being offered as a part of photographic safari vacation. Is the tour operator upfront about where the group would be staying ? Can you look up that Hotel / Lodge / Camp present on tripadvisor ? what are the reviews like? What is the shower facility like?
Are the tents air conditioned ? Food quality and choices are also important. Ask question if you are unsure. We use 5 star luxury accommodation and lodges for our safaris and they are rated 5 star on tripadvisor. We have been operating safaris since 2007 and we consistently receive 5 star reviews from our guests.
Physical fitness level of participant : Some safaris require no walking at all as the guests stay on the vehicle all times (Tiger Safaris & Masai Mara Safaris). Some involve hiking (Mountain Gorilla and Walking safaris with Rangers in South Africa). Be sure the safari you are chosen is not too intense for you.
Your own photographic level & Style : It may sound strange but imagine someone might have picked up DSLR for the first time and never had experience of shooting through 600mm lens and they wish to join a wildlife photo safari with worlds best wildlife photographer. It would be wise to ask and make sure if the photography leader is happy to help beginners. Some safaris are meant for intermediate or advanced photographers only, so its best to ask! We welcome photographers of all levels as well as non photographers and help them learn photography right from the basics.
Group Size: This is simple. Larger the group, less attention would be available to each participant. Smaller group usually cost more and provided more 1:1 and intimate learning experience. Opt for smaller group size in your photographic safaris. Our maximum safari group size is 6.
Photography Vehicles: This is very interesting, as some vehicles are very old and totally covered (hard top), making it very bumpy ride and difficult to photograph wildlife. Some vehicles are new and has nice soft top which can be rolled open to maximise your viewing are so that you can shoot better. Before booking your photographic safari, ask for the photographs of typical vehicles that would be used for safaris. You will be spending most of your photographic time in the vehicle, so make sure they are comfortable and ideal for photography. Our photography vehicles has soft open top and we provide bean bags for extra support.We offer whole row of seat to each photographer so that they can shoot from either side of the vehicle.
Exclusivity of the park/ area: Try visiting the bank of mara river in the migration season and you would see yourself what I mean. Most tourist vehicles gather on the banks of mara crossings and it becomes increasingly difficult to take a picture without jeeps in the background. When lot of tourists reach mara national park, animals simply move to exclusive areas. These exclusive areas are vast lands, adjacent part of the same mara national park but only resident guests have access to that area. Other tourists are forbidden from entering it. Ask the tour operator / lead photographer if the area is exclusive. After all you want to have more 1:1 experience and photographs that does NOT exist with other photographers. Our lodges are located in exclusive areas with none to very few other vehicles in sight at any given point in time.
Time of the year: Usually the photo safaris are arranged when the animal numbers and sightings are better. Do you own research and chose your dates carefully. Tiger sightings in April May are wonderful and parks remain closed between Jun and September to all. You need to familiarize yourself with the ecosystem. Watch documentaries and use YouTube to make sure your time of visit is great.
When it comes to choosing the photography safaris, it is mainly driven by your interest and the kind of places or wildlife you would like to see. It can also be the case that you already have a favourite photography leader in mind and you would want to pick up one of the places the photography leader serves in their schedule.
What is best, book everything yourself vs taking professional help for photography safari holidays?
You can do your own research based on the factors mentioned above and find out great lodges at cheaper rates. Book your own safaris and flights and you will still enjoy the experience. However, when we book through an experienced photography tour leader, they have already done the ground work for you. You also benefit from ATOL protection for your trip, which means even if your operator goes burst, your hard earned money is safe. You also learn a lot and improve your photography when going with the right tour leader. All you have to do is trust your tour leaders and their experience.The tour leaders have their own network of people on the ground which you may not have. The guide knows out of 10 zones, exactly what zone to use to enter the park so that you have the animal sighting in Ranthambore.
Bandhavgarh Tigers Photo Safari (May) -EXCLUSIVE –See Details £1,248 – £4,990
How much does it cost to go on photography safari holidays?
Cost starts from GBP 2000 and onwards, depending on the number of nights, type of accommodation, excursions like hot air balloon ride, business class air tickets etc.
How many days are enough for photography safari holidays ?
If you are booking everything yourself, minimum 4 nights. However the longer you say, the better experience you would get out of it. If you are going with an experienced tour leader, they might have already designed duration of their trip for adequate length.
What precautions do I need to take on photography safari holidays ? Follow instruction of your safari guide and do not take risks for taking pictures. Pictures are not worth risking your life!
What care I should take while booking photography safari holidays ? Shop around , talk to tour operators and photo safari leaders. Do not book your safari without talking to the safari leader. This would give you an impression of the person with whom you will be spending considerable time of your once in a lifetime safari. Once you have booked, ask for ATOL certificate immediately after you have made full payment for your safari.
What to do after returning from photography safari holidays ? Hopefully, by following above advice, you got the experience and learning from your safari and now print the pictures you captured from the trip and hang them in your living room. Also, keep practicing the newly acquired skills. Good Luck!